Worst Engineering Decisions Ever Made

worst engineering mistakes thumbnail

Engineers have been known to get creative, pushing the boundaries of scientific innovation and heralding the landmarks in human achievement.

Most often than not, they succeed. A few do not. After all, engineers are only human and it’s inevitable a few of them will make a serious blunder or two.

But, of course, the consequences of an engineering mistake can be much bigger than the everyday mistakes we all tend to make.

However, as bad as they are, they all have one positive: they teach us never to make those mistakes again.

From exploding rockets to unstable bridges, below are some of the worst engineering decisions ever made and the disastrous effects they have created.

Chernobyl

More and more people are beginning to learn about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the devastating effect it created, second only to the Fukushima.

On April 26th 1986, a flawed reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded at around 3:00 AM. The accident took place during a maintenance shut down but of course, this test is what led to the reactor exploding.

This was due to negligence in safety standards and the pressure on the fuel assemblies was what triggered it.

The result led to the roof of the plant being blown off, causing a huge release of radiation into the atmosphere and spreading over a wide area within the Soviet Union.

To this day, the nearby town of Pripyat remains uninhabitable and people continue to suffer from the after-effects.

Thankfully, this tragedy told Western nuclear power plants the importance of maintaining safety standards in their design and of safety culture in general.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was a milestone that was in no way positive. It was the first bridge in the world to use plate girders for support on the roadbed.

At the time, it was the first cable extension bridge and the third largest in the world. It also failed to consider aeroelastic flutter in its design.

Fortunately, nobody died as a result of it collapsing, but the engineering mistakes were obvious after the fact.

The cost of the bridge was well over $6 million back in 1940 and the bridge last only four months before people began to notice how it was buckle and sway in the wind.

Perhaps this is why there were no casualties; even to the uneducated eye, a swaying bridge is best avoided.

The bridge collapsed fully on 7th November 1940 when the winds rose up to 19 metres a second. The structural integrity could not hold against it and fell into the river below where it remains to this day as an artificial reef.

The Titanic

Finally, perhaps the most famous engineering disaster of them all, the Titanic was the largest ship ever built at the time of 1912.

Although the design managed to impress the masses on the outside, there were many things contributing to its eventual sinking in the North Atlantic.

It is common knowledge now that the ship’s manufacturer overlooked safety during its construction and cut corners to make way for a first-class berth.

More than 2200 people suffered as a result of this oversight, with watertight rooms being completely flooded and the sulphur content in the steel being way too high.

All this to make room for better first-class apartment suites. If nothing else, the Titanic has been a cautionary tale for engineers since on how not to build a ship.

Engineering at GET

Are you interested in becoming an engineer yourself? Visit our careers page at GET and start your career on one of our apprenticeship programmes.